Interpol asks China for info on agency’s missing president

Meng Hongwei head of Interpol declared missing

Meng, 64, the first Chinese head of the global law enforcement agency headquartered in France, was "taken away" for questioning by authorities "as soon as he landed in China" last week, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted a source as saying.

Meng's wife, who has remained in Lyon with their children according to police sources, was receiving protection, it said.

Meng Hongwei, the president of Interpol - the world's largest worldwide police organisation, which provides support to law enforcement agencies across 192 countries - has not been seen since last week.

While Interpol is still waiting for an official response from China, an official investigation has been launched in France.

Whether China was taking action was unknown.

In the role Meng has been entrusted with a number of sensitive portfolios, including heading up the country's counter-terrorism division, which saw him in charge of the response to several major incidents in China's fractious western region of Xinjiang.

A person familiar with the investigation said the initial working assumption was that Meng had antagonised Chinese authorities in some way and had been detained as a result. The term usually describes investigators in the ruling Communist Party who probe graft and political disloyalty.

Meng Hongwei, president of Interpol.

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The organisation went out of its way to say that its secretary general, not Meng, was responsible for the day-to-day running of Interpol.

Critics said Meng's disappearance would sound alarm bells in global organisations that work with China. Only at the behest of a country does the information go public via a "red notice", the closest thing to an worldwide arrest warrant.

Interpol can issue a red notice - an worldwide alert - for a wanted person. He was the first Chinese leader of Interpol, which connects the law enforcement agencies of its 192 member countries.

His appointment caused concern among academics and human rights advocates, who feared he would abuse Interpol's powers to forcibly repatriate Chinese dissidents and fugitives.

Interpol staff can carry special passports to help speed deployment in emergency situations but that would not have given Meng any specific rights or immunity in his home country.

So far neither the public security ministry nor the foreign ministry in China has commented. In the meantime, he served as head and deputy head of branches of the coast guard, all while holding positions at Interpol. Meng's term is due to run until 2020.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party's secretive internal investigation agency, had no announcements on its website about Meng and could not be reached for comment. Still out of the public eye, she issued a statement apologizing for her actions.

Interpol said it was aware of reports of the "alleged disappearance" of its president and said the issue was a matter for France and China.

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